Tom Skinner, an African American minister from inner-city New York, in a 1970 sermon concluded by comparing Jesus to Barabbas. Barabbas was also a revolutionary. He said “The Roman system stinks, it’s militaristic, it’s oppressive.” And Jesus would have agreed. The difference between Jesus and Barabbas was in their solution. Barabbas wanted change within the system. Jesus wanted to change the system entirely.
So why release Barabbas instead of Jesus?
“Very simple: if you let Barabbas go, you can always stop him. The most Barabbas will do is go out, round up another bunch of guerrillas and start another riot. And you will always stop him by rolling your tanks into his neighborhood, bringing out the National Guard and putting his riot down. Find out where he is keeping his ammunition. Raid his apartment without a search warrant and shoot him while he is still asleep. You can stop Barabbas.
But how do you stop Jesus? They took and nailed him to a cross. But they did not realize that, in nailing Jesus to the cross, they were putting up on that cross the sinful nature of all humanity. As Christ was nailed to the cross, it was more than just a political radical dying; He was God’s answer to the human dilemma. On that cross Christ was bearing in His own body my sin, and He was proclaiming my liberation on that cross. And on that cross He shed his blood to cleanse me of all my sin, to set me free. They took and buried Him, rolled a stone over His grave, wiped their hands and said, ‘That is one radical who will never disturb us again. We have gotten rid of him. We will never hear any more of his words of revolution.’
Three days later Jesus Christ pulled off one of the greatest political coups of all time: He got up out of the grave. When He arose from the dead, the Bible now calls him the Second Man, the New Man, the Leader of a new creation. A Christ who has come to overthrow the existing order and to establish a new order that is not built on man.
Keep in mind, my friend, with all your militancy and radicalism, that all the systems of men are doomed to destruction. All the systems of men will crumble and, finally, only God’s kingdom and His righteousness will prevail. You will never be radical until you become part of that new order and then go into a world that’s enslaved, a world that’s filled with hunger and poverty and racism and all those things of the work of the devil.
Proclaim liberation to the captives, preach sight to the blind, set at liberty them that are bruised, go into the world and tell men who are bound mentally, spiritually and physically, “The liberator has come!”